Do you want to live in a country where Internet Service Providers can slow down and censor your internet traffic at will, where the NSA has vastly more power than it does today and where end-to-end encryption may be illegal? Then Jeb Bush is the Republican presidential contender for you: he has positioned himself as the anti-internet candidate in an election where internet rights have never mattered more.
A lot of the candidates have made worrying comments about the future of surveillance and the internet – from Chris Christie’s bizarre vow to track 10 million people like FedEx packages , to Hillary Clinton’s waffling on encryption backdoors – but Jeb Bush’s deliberate campaign to roll back internet rights is the perfect storm of awful.
He proudly stated on his campaign website this week that he would axe the FCC’s important net neutrality rules, a hard-fought, grassroots victory from earlier this year by internet rights activists almost a decade in the making. As the New York Times described it at the time, the net neutrality rules “are intended to ensure that no content is blocked and that the internet is not divided into pay-to-play fast lanes for internet and media companies that can afford it and slow lanes for everyone else.” The idea that ISPs shouldn’t be able to censor internet or slow down traffic at the behest of paying corporations seems something everyone can agree on, right?
But as Gizmodo’s Kate Knibbs put it , “Instead of viewing the FCC’s net neutrality rule as a safeguard for consumers , Bush is framing it a way to sandbag ISPs out of their rightful profit margins, with no upside for people using their services.” Jeb Bush is apparently happy to side with Comcast and Time Warner, two of the most hated conglomerates in America, rather than the tens of millions of people who just want watch Netflix every night without their internet slowing down or having to pay more.
But that’s just his latest vow to dismantle the hard-fought rights internet users have won over the past few years. Bush is also a mass warrantless surveillance fanatic. He has not only continually defends the NSA on the campaign trail, but has called for the mammoth spy agency to be handed even more powers . He’s defended the massive phone metadata program that collected Americans’ phone records that is both wildly unpopular with voters and has already been modified by Congress – and to a large extent shuttered – with the passage of the USA Freedom Act . Bush even claimed the expansion of the NSA over the past six or seven years has been the “best part” of the Obama administration.
Perhaps worst of all, Jeb Bush has ignorantly criticized the welcome trend of tech companies like Apple implementing end-to-end encryption in their devices to protect its millions of users from criminals and government spying. Seemingly channeling his brother George W at an event in August, Jeb said , “If you create encryption, it makes it harder for the American government to do its job - while protecting civil liberties - to make sure that evildoers aren’t in our midst.”
Bush apparently doesn’t understand that encryption helps law enforcement more than it hurts , and is vital to billions of internet users all over the globe whether we’re talking about the economy or human rights.
But most importantly, strong encryption is a bulwark against cyber attacks, which Bush claims is a “vital” issue. In his lukewarm cybersecurity plan , which really just calls for more power for a variety of government agencies to spy on us all, he does not mention the word “encryption” once.
Too often internet and privacy rights get relegated to the end of the table when election season rolls around. But the issues have never been more mainstream – NSA reform and net neutrality rules, unthinkable eight years ago, are all of a sudden inevitable. And the idea that Jeb Bush wants to take those rights away and saddle the internet with yet more corporate control and government surveillance is disturbing, to say the least.
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